Much of the appeal of Twitter and other social media websites is that they make the world seem much smaller than it actually is.
Wednesday evening, though, nothing better illustrated the distance that has existed between the Tennessee Titans and running back Chris Johnson for more than a month now, since the end of NFL lockout and the resumption of league business.
Not long after several Titans tweeted about going out on Bourbon Street and dining on the likes of alligator on the eve of their final preseason game — they play the Saints, 7 p.m. Thursday at the Superdome — Johnson let the world know his whereabouts.
“In Orlando downtown at the chophouse with [agent] Joel [Segal] talking business over dinner,” he wrote on his Twitter page.
Hours earlier, he used the same medium to make it known he had no plans to eat crow.
Johnson has been the Titans’ leading headline maker during the preseason by virtue of his separation from his team and teammates. His desire to renegotiate his contract has led him to stage a holdout, which now threatens his availability for the start of the regular season, which for the Titans is Sept. 11 at Jacksonville.
He generated even more discussion and even some vitriol earlier Wednesday when he responded to negative tweets.
“Can these fake Titan fans STFU on my timeline I don't have a regular job so don't compare me to you and I can care less if uthink I'm greedy,” he wrote.
Within an hour, the reaction to that posting prompted a second: “If you was a real fan my tweet would not bother you it only make the fake fans upset.”
Quickly it became a national story and unfailing fodder on the newly crowded local sports talk radio scene.
Ever defiant, Johnson tried one more time to explain himself rather than offer any sort of apology.
“My titan fans taking it all wrong I'm talking to the ones writing me racist Comments. I'm not call the Titan fans fake at all. #LUV,” he wrote.
Johnson has strengthened his appeal throughout the first three years of his NFL career through his willingness to engage the fans through social media. His Twitter followers number well over 400,000.
If he thought he could strengthen his case for a new contract in the court of public opinion with his Wednesday offerings, though, he erred greatly.
Fans use social media to establish some measure of common ground with their athletic heroes. Johnson’s assertion that folks had no business comparing their own situations to his only served to drive a wedge between him and even some of his loyal supporters.
The only way now to bridge that distance is to put himself in the same place as the rest of the Titans — on the field.
Even one of his teammates suggested as much on Twitter about an hour after Johnson made his dinner plans known.
“tell Joel hello,” Cortland Finnegan wrote on his Twitter page. “Man can't wait to have you back in locker room I'm using yours now smh.”